TED Conversations

Damon Horowitz

In-House Philosopher, Google


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LIVE CHAT With Damon Horowitz: When have you realized that you were wrong about what you once thought was right? June 8, 2011, 5-6PM EDT

Join us for a LIVE conversation with serial entrepreneur, philosophy professor, and Google Director of Engineering, Damon Horowitz.

This conversation will open at 5:00PM EDT, June 8th, 2011.

"I am curious to hear what prompts people to moral reflection and reconsideration: When have you realized that you were wrong about what you once thought was right?"


Closing Statement from Damon Horowitz

I’d like to thank everyone for sharing their thoughts and experiences here. My TEDxSV talk was intended as a provocation for the technology industry in particular to reflect further upon our ethical decision making – but I am delighted to see that it has encouraged much broader discussion.

The prominent themes I hear in this conversation reinforce the value of education, experience, and humility in our moral development. So long as we continually challenge ourselves to question our beliefs, there is some small possibility that we will not always be wrong about what is right.

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      Jun 8 2011: There are a number of threads of philosophical discussion on the subject of ethical decision making in conditions of incomplete information, or other kinds of uncertainty. Many of these take as their starting point Mill's version of utilitarianism, and the proposition that perhaps we can only be held morally responsible -- praise- or blame- worthy -- for those consequences of our actions that we were able to predict... or should have been able to predict. Of course, that particular line presupposes already a consequentialist framework, but it also does dovetail in an interesting way with the question of how we might reevaluate our positions.
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      Jun 8 2011: As I think on this, I realize that many of the decision that I later decided were ethical mistakes were made after too MUCH contemplation. In contrast, those decisions that were made wholly by gut, and which seemed to have no other possible outcome are rarely the ones I regret or feel were wrong.

      This seems paradoxical, but it somehow calls to mind the concept of kin selection in genes. Is my ability to see something as "wrong" affected by how viscerally I felt (or feel) about its value or importance to me?

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